Renaissance Nude Offends French School Students

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French Education Minister Gabriel Attal has visited a school where pupils refused to look at a 17th-Century painting portraying nude women. 

Several first-year high school students expressed feeling offended by a 17th-century painting by Italian artist Giuseppe Cesari titled "Diana and Actaeon." The painting depicts a scene from the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses where the hunter Actaeon surprises the goddess Diana and her nymphs bathing. The painting, displayed in the Louvre, portrays Diana and four female nymphs fully nude.

Following the incident, students at the Jacques-Cartier school in Issou, near Paris, alleged that their teacher had made racist and Islamophobic remarks, a claim denied by the school. In response, teachers at the school refused to work.

On December 7, a French teacher showed the painting to her class, and students reported looking away, feeling offended, and expressing shock, according to Sophie Vénétitay, general secretary of the Snes-FSU teachers' union.

Following the incident involving the display of the painting, a parent wrote to the head teacher, claiming that his son had been prevented from expressing himself in a later class discussion. Tensions have reportedly been high at the Jacques-Cartier school since the beginning of the term in September, with repeated complaints by parents about coursework and punishments.

Sophie Vénétitay, the general secretary of the Snes-FSU teachers' union, noted that the recent incident reminded people of the brutal killing of Samuel Paty, a teacher murdered three years ago after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class. French authorities believe that false rumors contributed to inciting the attack.

French Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced that disciplinary procedures would be initiated against the students involved. Classes at the school resumed after several days' interruption, during which staff refused to teach, citing a breakdown in authority. Minister Attal expressed full support for the school's teachers.